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Coronavirus Cases Soar Across U.S. as Warning Signs Grow; Fauci on Contact Tracing: 'I Don't Think We're Doing Very Well'. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired June 29, 2020 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over half of the country seeing coronavirus cases surge this weekend.

[06:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, unfortunately, the stay-at-home measures need to be reenacted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Officials are calling on governors to roll out statewide mask mandates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's scientific evidence that masks both keep you from infecting others, but may also partially protect you from getting infected.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN) (via phone): I wish the president would wear a mask. Millions of Americans admire him, and they would follow his lead.

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: This is a very, very serious situation, and the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, June 29. It's 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill here with me this morning.

Great to have you here.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, my friend.

BERMAN: I've got to say, the news is troubling, though.

This morning, the pandemic is getting worse, in some places, much worse, and in some ways, worse than it's ever been. Nationwide, the average number of new coronavirus cases, it is at its highest level yet.

Thirty-one states are seeing cases rise compared to last week. Thirty- one states, all the states in red, more than half the country. The states in deep red are seeing their cases go way, way up. That includes Florida, Texas. California's cases are also rising. Arizona's, as well. Just four states, the ones in green, seeing a decrease.

So how bad is this? I want you to look at this. We went back and pulled the map from Memorial Day. That's on the right there. Look how much more red there is today, in today's map.

Now, Memorial Day, only 18 states had rising cases; 31 today. On Memorial Day, ten states were seeing drops in cases, just four today. That's extraordinary.

Health Secretary Alex Azar warns that the window is closing to get the pandemic under control. In a new interview with CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci says people gathering closely with -- without masks is a recipe for disaster. Even Vice President Pence is now urging people to wear face masks.

HILL: That he is. But the president seems unlikely to embrace that. Instead, as we saw over the weekend, he's focused on other things, among them, defending Confederate statues.

The president also retweeting and then deleting hours later a video where a supporter yelled "white power."

The president also denying reports he was briefed about Russian bounties being offered to Taliban fighters, which "The Washington Post" reports is believed to have resulted in the deaths of U.S. troops.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Randi Kaye. She is live in West Palm Beach, Florida. Randi, as this state is leading the nation in new cases, and the numbers are really troubling this morning.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica.

Yes, coronavirus has infected more than 2.5 million Americans, killing nearly 126,000. And here in Florida, the cases are surging. In fact, Sunday's numbers just yesterday, 144 percent jump from the previous Sunday high, according to "The Miami Herald." "The Herald" also reporting this morning that just over a quarter of the new cases all coming out of Miami. And that hospitalizations in Miami have risen for 15 consecutive days now.

Meanwhile, Palm Beach County here where I am, this beach behind me would normally be jammed coming up for the July 4th holiday weekend, but instead, it will be closed. Even without a state mandate, the county is closing the beaches for the holiday weekend. Shows you just how dire the situation is here in south Florida.

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KAYE (voice-over): A dire warning from one Trump cabinet member.

AZAR: The window is closing for us to take action and get this under control.

KAYE: As 31 states report an increase in new coronavirus cases over the last week, like here in Florida. The state reporting more than 8,500 new cases Sunday, after reporting a record high Saturday of more than 9,500 cases.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis blaming recent increases on a, quote, "test dump," a backlog of tests that all came through at the same time. A former CDC director discounted testing as the source of most increases.

THOMAS FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that in most states, where you're seeing an increase, it is a real increase. It is not more tests. It is more spread of the virus.

KAYE: DeSantis conceding that there is reason for concern, particularly in the demographics of the uptick of confirmed cases.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): That positivity increase is really being driven by a big increase over the last three weeks in individuals testing positive throughout the state of Florida in younger age groups, particularly 18 to 44.

KAYE: The numbers forcing DeSantis to hit pause on the state's reopening plan, closing bars throughout the state. And even with no state order, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties planning to have all beaches closed for the July 4th holiday weekend.

MAYOR DAVE KERNER (D), PALM BEACH COUNTY: It is an unfortunate result, but public health remains focus of the elected leaders of Palm Beach County. And, you know, unfortunately, this Fourth of July will not be spent at the beach.

KAYE: In Texas, cases are still surging, with a positivity rate increasing to more than 13 percent in recent days, according to John Hopkins University.

Vice President Mike Pence now urging people to wear face masks after weeks of saying concerns over the sudden surge were overblown.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wear a mask wherever it's indicated or wherever you're not able to practice the kind of social distancing that would prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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KAYE: At a church event in Texas with more than 2,000 people attending, Pence watched with a mask on, as a 100-person choir sang with no face coverings, only putting on masks when they were seated.

The CDC has warned choir singing could be a super spreader event, highlighting a march choir practice in Washington, where just one symptomatic person led to 87 percent of the singers getting infected.

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander stressing the importance of masks, arguing President Trump could be the key to convincing more people to wear them.

ALEXANDER (via phone): I wish the president would wear a mask when it's appropriate. Because millions of Americans admire him. And they would follow his lead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: And there you heard the vice president urging Texans to wear face coverings. That's a markedly different tone from the vice president, who just on Friday was suggesting that this country had flattened the curve.

Meanwhile, in the coming days, the vice president will be traveling to other states that are seeing a surge in cases, including Arizona, and yes, he will be coming here to Florida.

John, back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Randi Kaye for us in Palm Beach. We're going to speak to the mayor of Palm Beach coming up a little bit later to talk about the explosive growth of cases in that state.

Randi, thanks to you.

So what's driving the coronavirus surge in this country right now? In a new interview with CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, Dr. Anthony Fauci says too many people are ignoring the guidelines of social distancing and requests to wear a mask.

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What has happened, I guess, understandably, but nonetheless regrettably, that people took the attitude in some places of either all or none. Either you're locked down or you just let it fly and you just ignore many of the guidelines of physical distancing, wearing a mask, shaking hands, avoiding -- I mean, not shaking hands, avoiding crowds.

And what happened is you see pictures on the TV of the fact that, even in states that are telling their citizens to do it correctly, they're doing that. There are crowds, they're not physical distancing, and they're not wearing masks. That's a recipe for disaster.

It's something I spoke about time and again. We do need to open up again. No doubt about it. We want to get the economy back, but you've got to do it in a measured way.

And now we're seeing the consequences of community spread, which is even more difficult to contain than spread in a well-known physical location, like a prison or a nursing home or a meat-packing place. When you have community spread, it's insidious, because there are so

many people in the community who are infected, but asymptomatic. It makes it extremely problematic to do efficient contact tracing. Because most of the people who are infected don't even know they're infected. So how do you do contact tracing when someone doesn't have any symptoms?

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ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We heard Dr. Fauci talk about contact tracing, and that's the public health practice when you call someone who's infected, the Department of Health calls them and says, Well, who did you have contact with over this period of time? We need to call them and tell them to stay at home, to tell them to quarantine.

I told him that I've talked to many people who have been infected, and none of them have ever gotten that contact tracing call. So I said, Dr. Fauci, how do you think we're doing with contact tracing? Let's listen to his answer?

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FAUCI: I don't think we're doing very well, for a number of reasons, not all of which is the fault of the system. In that, you know, I mentioned this over the past few days, that if you go into the community and call up and say, how's the contact tracing going? The dots are not connected, because a lot of it is done by phone. You make a contact, 50 percent of the people, because you're coming from an authority, don't even want to talk to you.

If you're in an area where there are a lot of brown people, people who are Latinx at the border, they're concerned if you give them confidential information, it's going to work against them.

And then there are those who will give you the contact, but you don't exactly isolate them. They get lost in the shuffle. That's a very, very difficult situation. That we've got to do better on.

But what's even more confounding, Elizabeth, what's even more confounding is that when you have a community-based outbreak, like is going on right now in several states -- Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, et cetera -- what you're seeing is community-based spread where 20 to 40 percent of the people of the people who are infected don't have any symptoms.

[06:10:20]

So the standard, classic paradigm of identification, isolation, contact tracing doesn't work, no matter how good you are. Because you don't know who you're tracing. They're out there. They don't even know that they're infected.

So as I mentioned a few times recently, one of the things that we are considering doing is completely blanketing these communities with tests to get a feel for what the penetrance is in the community of infection. You can do that by a number of ways. You can do pool testing of large numbers of people together in one shot.

You can get community people to get boots on the ground and to go out there and look for the people, instead of getting on a phone and doing so-called contact tracing by phone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: Now, contact tracing is one of the pillars of things to do in order to get an outbreak under control. Contact tracing is one of those pillars, and Dr. Fauci clearly said that we need to do better.

I also spoke with Dr. Fauci about the effort to get a vaccine. He seemed optimistic that one would be on the market at the end of this year, the beginning of next year, but he had reservations about whether we'd be able to achieve the levels of immunity that we need. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN: Vaccines have different levels of efficacy. If you get two doses of measles vaccine, you are almost 100 percent protected. But, you know, as you and I know, the flu vaccine, even on a well-matched year, is you know, 40 to 60 percent protective against, you know, flu.

Which do we think this is going to be? Is it going to be 100 percent? We are going to protect against this, or it might be something less than that and, if so, how much less?

FAUCI: Well, as you probably know the answer to your own question, Elizabeth, we don't know the answer to that right now. You've got to do the testing to find out.

I doubt, seriously, that any vaccine will ever be 100 percent protected. The best we've ever done is measles, which is 97 to 98 percent effective. That would be wonderful if we get there. I don't think we will.

I would settle for 70, 75 percent effective vaccine. Because that would bring you to that level of what would be herd immunity level.

COHEN: So that's -- I'm glad you mentioned that number. Because a CNN poll and other polls have shown that about, in this neighborhood, about a third of Americans are not going to get the vaccine. They say they're not going to get it, even if it's free and easy to get, or they're very, very hesitant to get it.

If only, say, 70 to 75 percent of Americans are willing to get the vaccine and it's only, say, I think you just said, 70 to 75 percent effective, is that going to get us to herd immunity?

FAUCI: Unlikely. And that's one of the reasons why we have to make sure we engage the community as we're doing now to get community people to help us, for people to understand that we are doing everything we can to show that it's safe and that it's effective. And it's for the good of them as individuals and in society to take the vaccine. So we have a lot of work to do, because as you well know, we've spoken

about this intensively in the past. There is a general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling among some people in this country. An alarmingly large percentage of people, relatively speaking.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: I have to say, Elizabeth, that was a fascinating discussion with Anthony Fauci on the medicine and on the science in ways that I haven't really heard him speak before. He seems frustrated with where we are this morning. I suppose as well he should be.

COHEN: Absolutely. And I've known Dr. Fauci for years. I've been interviewing him for many years, and there is a different tone in his voice than what he's had before.

He is frustrated. He looks out, he sees the videos of people congregating. We talked about the church earlier in this show. He didn't mention the church, of course. But in general, videos of people being close together without masks. You can see that this really touches him. That it's -- he is very disturbed by this. He knows that that is not the right -- not what we should be doing right now.

BERMAN: Yes, what he knows scares him. And as I said, probably as well it should. Elizabeth Cohen, terrific work. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

COHEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Our next guest who is in Texas, in Harris County, in Houston, in the middle of one of the worst outbreaks right now says he believes he is witnessing a humanitarian tragedy. That's next.

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[06:19:04]

FAUCI: If you give the country a grade, you're really neglecting those areas that did it really well, that listened, that shut down, that are opening up with care. There are others that actually didn't listen or they jumped over these guideposts that we had.

So some grades are going to be "A" plus, some are going to be "A," and some are going to be down in "C" somewhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: He wouldn't tell us which states he thinks are "C's" or worse, but Dr. Anthony Fauci is putting some of the blame for the surge in new cases on states that reopened too quickly. Thirty-one states are seeing new cases increase. Only four states are decreasing.

And if you want to see how different this is this morning as we approach Fourth of July, I want to out up on the screen where we were on Memorial Day. Look how much more red there is today. This is a big change. This is what's happened over one month. This is the direction that America is going in, and it's a bad, bad direction.

One of the worst states right now is Texas. Joining us is Dr. Peter Hotez. He's the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of medicine.

Dr. Hotez, it's always a pleasure to speak with you. Again, I don't want to alarm people, but you say we're on what could be a humanitarian tragedy. What makes you so alarmed?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, thanks, John. I'm referring to this swath across the southern part of the United States, going all the way from Florida to Arizona, where you're seeing a massive resurgence in the number of cases.

We were starting to go down nationally from around 30,000, 35,000 cases a day down to 15,000 or 18,000. And now it's climbing back up and accelerating rapidly. It hit the 40,000 mark on -- on Friday. And it's going to continue to increase.

Eventually, we'll soon get to the 50,000 mark, without any obvious end in sight.

And the reason I added that very provocative statement about humanitarian tragedies is because, we're not really hearing what's going on in the low-income neighborhoods in those big metro areas. And I expect that it's disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations living in those areas. People who -- where it's very hard to do the social distancing, where you have high underlying rates of co- morbidities.

So I'm very concerned that we are going to see, in the coming weeks, huge numbers of deaths of people in the African-American, Hispanic- American, Native American community, and it's breaking my heart.

HILL: You know, we're seeing California rising, too. Governor Newsom said on Friday, Mark my words, we are going to see these deaths. They lag. And we need to be thinking about that.

As we look at the numbers, though, we're looking at Florida. We're looking at Texas going up. It's not just the new cases, Dr. Hotez, that we're focused on, but it's hospitalizations. And I think we can put some of that up.

And let's look at Texas, specifically. As we look at hospitalizations increase there. What's fascinating is that over the weekend, Texas Medical Center which was showing these, basically, at 100 percent for ICU beds in terms of occupancy, that information went away. How tough is it to really gauge what's happening if we're missing part of the data?

HOTEZ: Well, I wouldn't make too much of that. That -- that was just trying to adjust some of the information to make it a more presentable format. And I think it's already back up by now.

But the -- but what we have been regularly tracking and showing is that steep rise in hospitalizations. And that alone is -- is pretty frightening. And you're seeing this really steep increase in hospitalizations in all the metro areas of Texas and Arizona.

And the reason that point is important to make is again, many are still asserting, we're just testing more. And that's why we're seeing that rise. It's absolutely not true. This is real disease. And some of the projections and the models say that this is just the beginning. We'll be three or four times this within a few weeks, as we head into the middle of July.

BERMAN: The reaction in Texas and, to an extent, in counties in California and also in Florida, has been for governors to announce, they're going to close bars. They're going to close bars, and they're asking people to wear masks, although not mandating it. So closing bars and asking nicely to wear masks, how will that, do you think, impact the runaway increase in cases?

HOTEZ: Well, so this is a really important question. So you're right, closing bars on the assertion that it's mostly young people going to bars who are responsible for the transmission. And a voluntary mask, although in Houston and in Harris County, we are mandating it for businesses.

But the point is that many of the governors across the south are trying to be sort of surgical in what they are recommending. You know, just the bars, just the masks, without that full reimplementation of a shutdown.

And we don't know what the impact will be. And we've never done this before. So I just can't tell you today whether that's going to have a significant impact or not.

And -- and I've been asking the leadership of the various states across the south to, at the minimum, let's work with epidemiological modelers to see what the impact is. Is it going to be 5 percent? Is it going to be 50 percent? I don't think we have any knowledge on how that's going to proceed.

And the point is, I want the governors to own this. I don't want them to now suddenly see this big increase in deaths. Because as you point out, the deaths lag behind the cases.

Let's say by the middle of July and all of a sudden see this increased death rate and say, Oh, we didn't know. I mean, this is where now -- we have to be really smart. We have to have our state elected leaders work with the scientists to come up with what's going to be the best plan and road map.

And again, I come back to the federal government. That's where they're not providing the guidance, as far as I can tell. We heard Secretary Azar yesterday, with Jake Tapper, and he pointed out that all the things they're doing with FEMA, providing the PPE, and I think that's great. [06:25:09]

We're hearing from some state health directors saying if they ask the CDC specific questions about nursing homes or ships, they're getting help. That's great. But we're not seeing that road map, that plan for how we're going to deal with this massive resurgence.

HILL: Well, frankly, that's what a lot of people thought we might get with the task force briefing on Friday, and it was the exact opposite. Vice President Pence painting a very different picture in terms of the state of the country.

So when we go back to the fact that this is on the states, you said you've been urging and talking with governors, talking with state leaders, to really conference with scientists, to talk to these epidemiological modelers.

Are they doing that? Do you believe they have the right teams in place, that they're getting the science and going with the science?

HOTEZ: I don't know. And my point is, we -- we have some of the best scientists in the world. Right? That's why people love America, because of our research universities and our research institutes. Let's -- let's tap that potential and really get informed on what the impact of these very specific measures will be.

Look, I get it. I understand the urgency to open up the economy. I understand they want to do both, open the economy and maintain some level of public health control. Is it doable? I just can't tell you today.

BERMAN: Dr. Peter Hotez, it's a pleasure to have you with us. Thank you so much for the work that you're doing. I know that you're not getting much sleep these days. You're working very hard, so we appreciate it.

HOTEZ: Thank you again.

HILL: Did Russia pay Taliban forces to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan? The Kremlin just responded to these reports. We've got those details for you in a live report, next.

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